Breaking Into Publishing: Old School vs You School

When I moved back to NY state from CA, I ran into a high school friend who asked me what I had been up to “out there.” I told her I had been a freelance editor and writer. She was curious, “How did you get into that?” I had to stop and think because my career in publishing started old school style. I volunteered to transcribe lectures for a small philosophy press publishing a series of books. I became friends with my editor, and we decided to swap transcripts for proofreading. It was a short step from there to copy editing. I didn’t get paid, but I got a lot of valuable experience which led to freelance work in NY and CA. Yet, even though I was a competent writer and took many writing classes, it was still a challenge to get my writing published. My story is typical of so many people trying to get into publishing. At some point, you have to forget old school and go to “you school.”

What is you school? It is taking the steps to educate yourself on this fascinating career without necessarily spending years of your life working without getting paid just to break in. If you went and got a degree in journalism, creative writing, communications or English, you are ahead of the game. These degrees are still in demand in publishing. If you did not get a degree of this type, do not despair. There are certificate programs that can teach you some of the skills you will need. While not every publisher gives these programs credence, the skills you learn are legit. Legit skills, a keen eye and writing talent can help you get a publishing job even if you do not have the “right degree.” Certificate programs include the USDA graduate school’s Certificate in Editorial Practices evening program. Another certificate program is sponsored by Find info about this program here.

Of course, many writers debate the merits of the MFA in writing. Whether you go this route or sign on to a content farm to get your writing published, there is no substitute for practice. A content farm, though a rather unsavory term, publishes authors’ articles while earning money by placing ads on the articles’ pages. Writing on a regular basis hones your writing skills, and a content farm will pay you for publishable work. Some examples include: Demand Media and For a list of content farms, click here.

When Scandal Explodes at Work

For years, I wore the ubiquitous yellow band stamped with the Livestrong logo. It marked me as part of a group who supported a cancer charity that worked hard to help cancer patients put their lives back together after a diagnosis and move towards a cure. Many of us have relatives who have gotten a cancer diagnosis. Some have made it. Some have not. We all wore the bracelet anyways as a symbol of hope, that humanity can and will conquer cancer.

I was excited to be hired on to write health and nutrition articles for the website. I put a lot of time and energy into crafting those articles, knowing that people would be looking to them for answers. I now know what it must feel like to have worked at places like Enron or Union Carbide where scandal and tragedy caused by a few people affects the careers of many. It feels like my writing and my working for Livestrong is going to be judged because of Lance Armstrong’s doping behavior and his lying about it. And maybe it will … short-term.

It would be so easy to take Livestrong off my resume. However, Livestrong is a respected cancer charity. It is not going to collapse because of Armstrong’s admission. The work is does is important, and in light of that, the writing I contributed has merit and deserves to be recognized. Therefore, I will continue to keep Livestrong on my resume. I will also happily contribute to the website again if I am lucky enough to have the opportunity. We are pushing for a cure, and we cannot let one scandal stop us now.

Definition: Lollygagging

Lollygagging by KissySquirrel @ Photobucket

As a writer, I really have to know the definition of the words I use. However, some words just have more private, familial definitions, like the word “lollygagging.” In my family, it is exactly what it sounds like: Actively trying to make a sibling giggle, then gag while sucking on a lolly. This was usually brought about by tickling, poking, slapping, shoving, pinching, 360 degree wedgie (with the assistance of other siblings) or throwing things at the offending sibling. Sometimes, General Mayhem worked when these other tactics didn’t.  A lollygagging punishment was usually earned by a certain sibling (not me) who hoarded her lolly and then ate it in front of the other siblings long after theirs were gone. A fitting punishment, no?

Work, Shop, Eat, Repeat: Foods to Love

When I ask people why they work, they usually say, “To pay the bills.” Why do I work? Because I love to EAT!! There’s nothing like moving across the country or to another country to shake up your taste buds. There are foods I miss from NY, but I’ve discovered a lot of great things to eat in CA. A lot of my favorite foods are healthy and make it easier to stick to a diabetic diet. Here are some of my favorites:

Pho – (pronounced ‘fuh’) Pho is Vietnamese soup, which is more like a meal, or several meals, and summertime all in one bowl. It can be made with a variety of different meats, seafood or tofu. All varieties have rice noodles, sprouts, basil, and spices such as coriander and cinnamon. Find recipes for it at









 OK, don’t ask me why I had to move to CA to discover the best NY bagels, but here they are. Just Bagels are served in the Barnes & Noble cafes here. They are loaded with carbs, but also have whole grains and are yummy. They also have, like, a gazillion different kinds.









Kashi hot cereals and granola bars taste so good, and they do not have any high fructose corn syrup in them. Good for lowering cholesterol and filling you up. They may be a bit expensive, but there are online coupons for both.









It’s hard to find tortilla chips that aren’t too greasy or salty. My Nana’s are perfect. Thin, crunchy, but hearty enough to scoop up salsa or guacamole. Yum! No saturated fat and not too many carbs.









Like blue tortilla chips? Then Garden of Eatin’ is for you. Their blue chips also come baked or popped with flaxseed, multigrain, no salt, a little salt, regular salt, whatever your diet calls for. They taste great, and you can load them up with whatever heavy toppings you love, and they won’t break.










Now for the toppings. Gente garlic salsa is the BEST. It is made mild or hot. However, do not, I REPEAT, do not buy the hot if you have a sensitive tummy. It will burn the eyebrows off your dining mates when you open your mouth. But it is, oh, sooooo good.

Fountain of Health’s hummus is extra creamy because it has a ton of tahini in it, as well as lemon juice, garlic and ground chickpeas. It is a good source of protein and goes well with tortilla chips.

Mango salsa is another great topping for tortilla chips. Mangoes and red peppers are substituted for tomatoes. Yum. Check for recipes.





Need to lower your cholesterol? Honey Nut Cheerios and soy milk are great breakfast foods that can help. I’ve been eating these FOREVER, and I am always craving them. Another cereal that can be expensive, but there are online coupons to defray the cost. Double YUM!









Many diabetics have a problem with lactose intolerance. Silk products solve this problem. They make soy, almond and coconut milks and eggnogs. Light, chocolate, organic — whatever you need, and it is fortified with the same amount of calcium as milk. Bonus: I have found that the hot flashes I’ve experienced as part of pre-menopause have stopped after switching to soy milk. Soy products such as soy milk and tofu are reputed to help with this.








Anything made by Starbucks is fine with me. Unfortunately, even their light versions of their specialty drinks still have quite a few carbs in them. So a trip to Starbucks is reserved for special occasions. A tea latte made at home with black or orange pekoe tea, soy milk and some Splenda can hit the spot, especially if I am feeling under the weather. Something to drink that is warm and comforting…



It sure isn’t Wegmans, but Whole Foods carries some great foods too. One of my favorite is the pretzel roll. Yup, it is just what it sounds like — a roll made from pretzel dough, sprinkled with just enough sea salt to make it tasty. Sorry, no picture, but if you are a Whole Foods nut, you know what they look like anyways.


A perfect spread for pretzel rolls, Brummel & Brown is not margarine or butter. It is a yummy tasting spread made with yogurt. No carbs, 1.5 grams of saturated fat per tbsp, it will not ruin your diet. It also comes in strawberry as well (but hard to find!). Warning: This spread does not melt well and is not really suitable for baking.

There are many, many other foods I love and will work my fingers to the bone for, including some of the not so healthy ones. I won’t mention those, but if you are looking for nutrition info for food you are considering eating try these links:, Calorie King, Nutrition Data and CalorieLab. Happy Eating!

Pick Your Poison… Uh, I Mean Platform


The "Other" Platform


Time was when I used Microsoft for work and Mac for entertainment. MS-DOS? Yup, I knew the commands. Windows up to Windows XP? Sure, I could figure it out. They all were stable and they all worked fine. Until Windows Vista. That was it for me. I was working in a PC-only office at the time. The boss had Windows Vista, the rest of us Windows XP. Nothing ever worked after that.

I left. I took a few weeks, and moved my personal stuff from a PC to a Mac. I went to the Mac store and did all of the free workshops. Just like that I switched. It was easy. Everything works.

However, when it comes to looking for in-house copywriting work, I am finding I still need to know both platforms. Oh, crap. I really hate Windows. The Office package takes forever to load, forever to find what I need. I get updates every week that there are more security patches to download. Word and Excel are way more complicated than they have to be. Yes, I know you have the larger share of the platform market. But you could be a little more user-friendly, Microsoft.

This is a case of knowing that I have to acquire skills that I do not want or like to use. I’ll suck it up, but I’m not happy about it. Microsoft avoidance has become a way of life. Where are the free workshops, Microsoft?



I Want to be Your Handyman(person?): Expanding Your Skills

So here’s how I planned my career: I would go to grad school, get a degree in career development because a Master’s degree in student personnel did not provide enough information on the career planning process. I would then live happily every after counseling college students about their careers. That is not what happened. As they say, life is what happens while you are busy making plans.

The career counselor jobs were few and far between and paid less than my IT job in a college multimedia center. I did eventually work my way up to an associate director of career services position. However, a lot of the job was event planning. I hate event planning. My checklists were never comprehensive enough. Something always fells through the cracks. So I left higher ed for the recruiting industry, thinking that the experience would make me a more valuable employee when I returned to career development in higher ed. Except the recession happened, and I fast-forwarded to my planned retirement career: writing.

I can now tell you how to take apart your washer and dryer. I can instruct you as to why your sub-flooring has buckled. The ice maker on your refrigerator/freezer combo will probably work better once I tell you all the things that could be wrong with it. I could probably also relieve your panic at not being able to open the door on your self-cleaning oven. Need to figure out why your vacuum cleaner stopped in its self-propelling tracks? I could help you there too.

I did not plan to acquire these skills. My present home and garden writing job demanded that I figure these things out. If you have worked in a variety of careers or have taken on the work of downsized employees, you probably have a boatload of skills that you never expected to acquire either. However, these “extra” skills may be the ones that help you find your next job, whether you are unemployed or looking to move to a higher paid position. They may also help you to segue back onto your chosen career path. The key is to keep an open mind and take every training and new skill opportunity offered to you. It shows that you are open to learning, you have a can-do attitude and that you are flexible and willing to take on new skills to help your employer. This attitude toward learning and skill acquisition can keep you employed or at the very least make you more employable in a recession. Now if I could only figure out where my ice maker skills will take me…


CSI Wedding Vows: Ripped From the Headlines

One of the things I have to do as a writer is to peruse daily headlines to ensure that my articles are up-to-date. It always amazes me when the news reports on all of the off-the-wall stuff that married people get up to. Being newly single again and once more on the dating scene, my friends wanted to “help” me craft an online dating profile. Nope, I am done with online dating. Too much weirdness. However, when the topic moved to writing your own wedding vows, I was all for it, even though it was getting a bit ahead of our single selves. As I’ve said before, writing teachers tell me to write about what I know, and after two years of writing, I know headlines.

So if I was ever crazy enough to get married, this is what my “CSI Wedding Vows” might look like:

I promise never to:

*Kill, cook and eat you

*Misplace your children

*Go after your ex while wearing adult diapers

*Crawl down your chimney, get stuck, die and then smell bad

*Pick you up from your hair plug appointment with the convertible top down

*Drive around with your long-dead corpse in the front seat … with the convertible top down

*Plant your corpse in the freezer among the frozen vegetables you really hate, like lima beans

*Chop off certain body parts, or if I do, not to put them down the garbage disposal where they cannot be retrieved

*Use your favorite router to make frozen daiquiris

*Change your Netflix, Qwikster movie preferences to footie pajama party porn

*Drive your car through your house and into your side of the bedroom

*Sell your porn collection on eBay … for a dollar

*Sew shut the front of your boxers out of sheer frustration

*Hem your pants with pink duct tape

*Call you Bubba unless that is really your name

*Send you to work with your lunch in some Hello Kitty Tupperware

*Cook an antifreeze casserole for you

*Erase your memory

*Play the drums better than you

*Post your cross-dressing pictures on Facebook

*Sleep with your identical twin and swear “I thought it was you.”

*Make sure the nurse marks the wrong leg for amputation

*Turn your pool table into a sewing project area

*Reveal your “Ace of Base” addiction

*Re-alphabetize your iTunes music library … in Farsi

*Use your state championship bowling trophy as a cookie press

*Serve you a “divorce cake.” For dessert. With divorce papers printed on a napkin.

Hmmm. That’s a lot of promises…